The US FDA has given its nod for Votrient (pazopanib) for treatment of advanced kidney cancer. The drug is manufacture by the London-based GlaxoSmithKline and is the sixth drug to be approved for kidney cancer since 2005.
Votrient is an oral medication that interferes with angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels needed for solid tumors to grow and survive.
Votrient is intended for people with advanced renal cell carcinoma, a type of kidney cancer in which the cancerous cells are found in the lining of very small tubes (tubules) in the kidney. In 2009, approximately 49,000 people were diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma and 11,000 people died from the disease in the US.
"The last five years have seen dramatic improvements in treatment options for patients with kidney cancer. Before 2005, the options available offered only limited effectiveness," said Richard Pazdur, director, Office of Oncology Drug Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
The five other drugs approved for kidney cancer and their approval dates are: Sorafenib (December 2005), Sunitinib (January 2006), Temsirolimus (May 2007), Everolimus (March 2009), and Bevacizumab (July 2009).
The safety and effectiveness of Votrient was evaluated in a 435-patient study that examined a patient's progression-free survival - the length of time, following enrollment in the study, before the tumor began growing again or before the patient died. Progression-free survival averaged 9.2 months for patients receiving Votrient compared to 4.2 months for patients who did not receive the drug.
Adverse reactions included diarrhea, high blood pressure, hair color changes, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, abdominal pain and headache. Votrient can also cause severe and fatal liver toxicity. Health care professionals should order blood tests to monitor liver function before and during treatment with the drug. Since Votrient can harm a fetus, it should not be used during pregnancy.
The drug has also been associated with heart rhythm irregularities. Patients receiving Votrient should be monitored with periodic electrocardiograms, which measure heart rhythm, and blood tests to monitor electrolytes since an electrolyte imbalance can lead to an irregular heart rhythm, FDA stresses.